Warden mulls changes to animal ordinance

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WARDEN — The Warden City Council on Tuesday reviewed proposed changes to the city code dealing with animals — including dog licensing and the definition of a “dangerous animal.”

According to City Attorney Anna Franz, the ordinances are being revised to update the language and keep the city’s law in line with state laws and definitions.

“It’s a pretty out-of-date code,” Franz told council members.

Currently, Warden requires all residents to license their dogs each year if they live within the city limits — $8 for spayed/neutered dogs, $12 if they are not — and provide proof of rabies vaccination, which is good for three years and can be kept on file with the city.

The city also fines residents whose animals are declared dangerous or out of control.

Council member Omar Pruneda said he was concerned that dog owners and family members be able to physically control their animals when in public.

“If a dog gets aggressive, there could be consequences,” he said.

Council member Byron Starkey said that when he was a school bus driver, he would often times see dogs running loose in packs, and would frequently have to stop or swerve to avoid hitting animals.

“Now that school has started, dogs follow kids to school, so we’re picking up dogs,” added Police Chief Rick Martin.

Franz said that the city ordinance could single out specific breeds of dogs, but could only focus on dog behavior or owner neglect in determining what constitutes a dangerous or “at large” dog.

A dog is considered dangerous, Franz said, if it kills on its property or it gets loose and is at large.

“You have to maintain control of your dog once you are off your property,” she said.

“I knew where my dog was all the time,” said council member and Mayor Pro Tempore Rosaelia Martinez.

If council members were concerned about negligent animal owners, Franz said it is within the council’s power to adjust the fines and send a message to residents that it’s important to control their animals.

“Raising the penalties is something the council can do for repeat offenders, and you can hit them pretty hard,” she said.

The council — which is still two members short and is seeking applications for anyone interested in serving — took no action on the animal ordinance.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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